L.A. Times writing more of Union-Tribune stories

Democrat designs on SD City Council

Artist sketch of new roller coaster at SeaWorld San Diego
  • Artist sketch of new roller coaster at SeaWorld San Diego

Downward trend

The Los Angeles Times, owned by billionaire physician Patrick Soon-Shiong, is accelerating its not-so-stealthy creep into the editorial content of the San Diego Union-Tribune, also purchased by the pharmaceutical magnate last year as part of his $500 million-plus Times acquisition deal. The top of the U-T’s January 5 sports page was graced with what was labeled a “guest column” by Times sports writer Helene Elliott in praise of the Chargers, who departed San Diego for L.A. and environs after locals refused to come up with a tax-subsidized stadium. “Their confidence and assurance built as they shrugged off losing two of their first three games and pulled off victories in hostile settings in Cleveland, Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City,” noted Elliott.

Then there was the page-one January 8 story about plans for a new roller coaster at SeaWorld, over which appeared the byline of L.A.’s Brady McDonald. A “senior producer for latimes.com, working on home page production, special projects, and website design,” per the Times website, McDonald also “writes the Funland theme park blog for The Times’ Travel section, covering the latest trends and newest rides at major parks around the world.” The byline of longtime U-T local tourism reporter Lori Weisberg was tucked under McDonald’s.

Sign of the times: an LA Times reporter wrote this U-T story about a  San Diego institution.

Sign of the times: an LA Times reporter wrote this U-T story about a San Diego institution.

Meanwhile, a memo from Times deputy managing editor Sewell Chan has revealed that online traffic to the paper’s website generated by Google, Facebook, and similar sites, has been rapidly evaporating. “We are working on several fronts to try to reverse this trend. We’re auditing our technology and reviewing our use of live blogs. (More on this soon.),” says the January 7 missive, posted by L.A. Observed. Pithiness, not depth, is the key, advises Chan. “Search engines and social shares only display 60 characters before cutting off. Aim for a headline count no longer than 85 characters. With few exceptions, headlines need to get shorter. We have too many two-sentence headlines; they should be the exception, not the standard.”

More self-referencing web links are also desired. “This is critical: No story should go to the copy desk without at least two or three inline links to relevant Los Angeles Times content,” writes Chan. “We are taking urgent steps to rebuild our audience and acquire digital subscriptions to support our investments in journalism. We’re grateful for your help and cooperation.”

Barbara Bry: “Really? You want my council seat? Please!”

Barbara Bry: “Really? You want my council seat? Please!”

No word on whether the U-T will follow similar practices. The Times website has fallen into 61st place among the world’s newspapers, as ranked by SimilarWeb.com. The U-T is also down, coming in at 350. By comparison, the New York Times is fifth, with the Washington Post places ninth. The top online paper in the world is Britain’s mid-market Daily Mail.

Political money or bust

Add another liberal Democrat to the growing list of city council hopefuls setting up fundraising committees more than a year out from the March 2020 primary. Latest to join the money-seeking scrum is attorney Will Moore, who filed a January 7 declaration of candidacy for District 1. The coveted La Jolla seat is being vacated by Democrat Barbara Bry, who’s declared her intent to run for mayor that year to termed-out Republican incumbent Kevin Faulconer. Filings show Moore’s campaign treasurer is Stephanie D Sanchez. She also oversees the electoral funds of two other Democratic council candidates, Scripps Ranch High School alumna Marni von Wilpert, seeking the Fifth District seat of termed-out Republican Mark Kersey, and gun control supporter Wendy Wheatcroft, running for the Seventh District seat currently held by Scott Sherman... Port Commission chairman Rafael Castellanos, whose bitter 2016 battle with attorney Gil Cabrera over who should be city attorney ended with losses for both men and the election of fellow Democrat Mara Elliott, is running for county supervisor to replace termed-out Republican Greg Cox in 2020.

Irwin Jacobs is smiling because, for some reason, he seems to be in charge of Balboa Park now.

Irwin Jacobs is smiling because, for some reason, he seems to be in charge of Balboa Park now.

Jacobs rules

Final bids for contractors hoping to grab a piece of the massive parking garage and road makeover of Balboa Park masterminded by La Jolla billionaire Democrat Irwin Jacobs are due January 18, per word from city hall. That’s nine days later than previously posted, with no explanation for the delay. Whether Jacobs and friends will ante up sufficient cash to cover the massive public layout to stage the controversial project has yet to be announced... An outfit calling itself San Diego Voters’ Voice registered itself as political fundraising committee with the city clerk’s office on January 3, to sponsor a “New initiative for the City of San Diego: ‘San Diego Democracy Dollars.’” Per a November 17 announcement on the League of Women Voters website last year, the measure aims to create “a new form of public financing of elections, in which candidates must abide by reasonable spending limits and political campaigns enhance political equality for all citizens, ensure maximum participation by citizens in the political process, and enable candidates to compete equitably for public office. It also includes transparency and accountability.”

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Tangentially related, just yesterday Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed raved in his paper about the San Diego Symphony's new young mop-top Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, soon to be San Diego's next music director. But apparently Swed has not gotten Mayor Sunny's PR message of positivism about our town.

The Times critic panned Copley Symphony Hall and its neighborhood. Swed called it "dispiriting, a 1929 movie palace in a bland 34-story office building in San Diego's downtown financial district," in an area "not lively on weekends when most concerts are held," a building with "ungracious" acoustics.

Swed praised the Sunday afternoon Payare concert and then walked to another music venue in "the rapidly gentrifying East Village" where "all around are grotesque new apartment buildings that look as though they took their inspiration from Legoland." There, he chided San Diego Symphony for charging $40 a seat for a 30-minute performance.

Then he lowered the boom: "San Diego has, as elsewhere, a terrible homeless problem, but the East Village felt particularly callous. I witnessed ... three confrontations between oblivious operators of electric scooters and terrorized pedestrians or street people. Raucous partying on the patios of sports bars took place within feet of ignored hungry beggars. To a visitor, this San Diego looked like a candidate for the most tasteless and thoughtless major city on the West Coast."

But it’s our “tasteless and thoughtless” city. He’s welcome to stay in his own ghetto blight in Los Angeles.

What he did is referred to as "the pot calling the kettle black." LA tries and tries to have things to be proud of, and keeps coming up short. I suppose now it can proclaim pride in the Chargers, although a recent win would have made that more convincing. It's that old love/hate relationship with LA, now on steroids.

Speaking for myself, I cannot quarrel with a single one of Swed's observations or criticisms, though they do sting.

Anyone who thinks the San Diego UT is a local paper is and idiot. I think that everyone who subscribes to the UT should cancel their subscription. I wouldn't give any money to Patrick Soon-Shiong.

I can't imagine why you keep saying this, AlexClarke, unless you were a fan of the old-style Union-Tribune under publisher Jim Copley where the news pages were censored by ex-Marine Corps generals and the editorial page was the GOP playbook for running California.

The U-T now has become one of many papers owned by Patrick Soon-Shiong and, as Matt Potter constantly reminds us, it's not getting the infusion of money that the LA Times enjoys.

But Soon-Shiong lives in LA and wants good journalism for SoCal. It's why he invested a record $500 million to rebuild the LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, rescuing these troubled papers from the clutches of Chicago Tribune and its exploitive high-flyer Michael Ferro. While we have the chance in otherwise uncertain times, San Diegans should be encouraged to support their local daily newspaper paper.

I agree. One dollar ($1) for nine (9) months of digital access was too irresistible. Although, as usual, content is spotty.

I spend $0 to read their online content. I just manage their cookies and use incognito mode in chrome.

I can't disagree I just don't like San Diego treated like a suburb of LA. I guess it would be too much to want a news paper to just present the news and not be right or left.

And when is it exactly that you think the UT under Copley Press was ever centrist and reported the news without bias??

monaghan, I wish that I could see the U-T as "my" local newspaper. I don't and never did. But giving this billionaire credit for "want[ing] good journalism for SoCal" is premature at best. Current trends in the news reporting business will lead to no printed papers at all within less than a generation. If he rebuilds something, it will have to be some sort of electronic reporting.

As to the old days, when the Copley organization put its own particular spin on reporting and editorializing, the U-T now has its own LAT-style censorship and spouts the DNC playbook for running California (and the nation, too.) That's progress?

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